The ‘common art’: Everyday creativity in the Mary Greg Collection at Manchester Art Gallery

Mitchell, Elizabeth (2018) The ‘common art’: Everyday creativity in the Mary Greg Collection at Manchester Art Gallery. In: Everyday Creativity, 10-11 July 2018, Morgan Centre, University of Manchester. (Unpublished)

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In 1922 designer and educator W. R. Lethaby wrote an article titled ‘The Need for Beauty’. Four years after the end of the First World War, in the same year that newly-elected Prime Minister Andrew Bonar-Law described the country’s ‘crying need for tranquillity and stability’, Lethaby made a passionate case for what he called ‘the common art’. The common art, he wrote, out of which all great art emerges, ‘is concerned with all the routine things of life – laying the breakfast table and cleaning the doorsteps of our houses, tidying up our railway stations, and lighting the High Streets of our towns’.
This paper introduces a little-known collection of domestic objects and amateur crafts informed by this idea and put together in the same period. The Greg Collection of Handicrafts of Bygone Times was given to Manchester City Art Galleries by collector Mary Hope Greg, also in 1922. Intended as both a material history of everyday life in the past and a spur to creative practice in the future, it was a response to the devastation of war, founded on Mrs Greg’s personal belief in the redemptive capacity of everyday creative practice. The collection is still held by Manchester Art Gallery, where it has, in recent years enjoyed a significant renewal of interest. This paper thus considers both the historical origins of the collection, in the context of interwar concepts of the ‘everyday’, and its relevance within a contemporary context, informed by 21st century approaches to creativity, health and wellbeing.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: museums, collections, craft, amateur, domestic, wellbeing
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of Creative and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Liz Mitchell
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2019 15:26
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2019 15:26

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